December 2nd, 2010
11:00 AM ET
I’m not a foodie, but I play one while watching TV, which is why I’m excited about the new season of "Top Chef." It’s "All-Stars," of course, and the field seems pretty stacked.
We have Tiffani and Stephen from season one; Marcel and Elia from season two; Dale L., Casey and Tre from season three; Richard, Antonia, Spike and Dale T. from season four; Carla, Fabio and Jamie from season five; Jen and Mike I. from season six; and Angelo and Tiffany from season seven.
What we DON’T have are any "Top Chef" winners. This is a brilliant move.
Too often, "All-Star" seasons cast past champs who inevitably end up with massive targets on their backs. The fact that none of these contestants won seems to have made them that much hungrier this time around. (Be forewarned, the puns may be plentiful in these recaps.)
One other quick casting note: Along with Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons, Tony Bourdain is on board as a regular judge, which is awesome. He never holds back his opinions, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cheer at his evisceration of Fabio’s dish in the premiere. (I ended up doing both.)
First impressions on some of the contestants: Stephen and Marcel are still pompously annoying. Dale T. seems to have matured; Spike, not so much. Jen thinks VERY highly of herself, which she needs to dial back a bit. (Do you remember how you flamed out in your season, Jen? Because I do.) Carla is still incredibly gracious and classy. And Richard, who dominated his season but self-admittedly choked in the finale, seems like the one to beat.
Let’s get to the challenges. The Quickfire divided the chefs by season and tasked them with composing a dish that represented the city in which their season took place. Seasons three and four, which look to be the strongest mix of competitors, were on top. You can argue that having more chefs gives them an unfair advantage, but remember that it also means they need to blend more ideas. Season four took the first win, giving the team immunity, which made me happy for Richard, Antonia and Dale T., and annoyed at Spike. (I have a feeling that will be a theme for me and Spike.)
If the Quickfire was a trial by fire, the Elimination Challenge was downright cruel. Hey, you know that dish that got you kicked off the first time? Make it again. And this time, don’t screw it up. No pressure.
After some spectacular redeeming dishes and some fabulous flops, Spike, Jamie, Richard and Angelo offered up the best. Except, wait a minute. Richard was only brought in so the judges could tell him that he was disqualified for the win because he went over time. Boo! He had the best dish of the night (not just my opinion; the other chefs thought so too). It stinks that he was DQ’d, but rules are rules. So Angelo got the win, and if this turns into a repeat of season seven's "Angelo Wins Everything," I will be hugely disappointed.
As for the worst dishes of the night, that came down to Stephen, Elia and Fabio. As I mentioned, Bourdain took special exception to Fabio’s dish, and Fabio took special exception to Bourdain’s comments.
Apparently, Fabio forgot what show he was on, or that judges are supposed to, you know, judge. But the minute Elia admitted that she neither tested nor tasted her dish, I knew she was toast. Being the first one kicked off is never fun, but being sent home for the same dish twice must be especially hard to swallow (hey, I warned you).
What'd you think of the “Top Chef: All-Stars” premiere?
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